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People/Characters: John R. Platt

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Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires by Shomari Willslover of HE

Character description

John R. Platt was a wealthy New York City manufactuter of plate glass who fell in love with Hannah Elias, a young African American woman that he met in a brothel. Their relationship ended when she left that “resort,” but they later met again in 1887 and continued their relationship for many years. He supported Elias, and give her houses, very large sums of money, and jewelry but he encouraged her to invest, because he could not put her in his will.

Cornelius Williams, a tenant in a boardinghouse run by Hannah Elias, became upset with her and Platt, whom he knew as “Mr. Green.” In 1903, Williams remembered his grudges; unable to find Elias, he found the name of noted New York City planner Andrew H. Green,“The Father of Greater New York,” and decided he was her lover “Green.” On Friday, November 13, 1903, Williams shot Andrew H. Green to death. After the investigation, he was committed to an insane asylum.

The investigation revealed the affair with Elias to Pratt's family, and they pressured him into a lawsuit to regain the money that he had given Elias. The scandal was covered nationwide. She was arrested, but he broke down on the stand and she was acquitted. The relationship was ended and he died in 1908.

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